4 secrets of successful side hustles

Oct 14, 2020 /

Starting a side hustle while you’re employed can be enormously beneficial, especially in uncertain times.

According to a 2019 survey from Bankrate, 43 percent of American full-time workers have a side hustle. In places like the UK, Singapore and Philippines, more than 50 percent of the workforce report having a side gig in addition to a main job.

While “side hustle” may seem like a new term, it was first used in Black newspapers in the US in the 1920s. In recent years, the phrase — and the practice it describes — has regained traction due to courtesy of a variety of factors, namely the rising cost of living and job security. In the midst of COVID, these two factors are particular pain points, especially for people of color who are experiencing the worst effects of the pandemic.

After an internship at Google didn’t turn into a full-time position as she’d hoped, Based Washington DC-based Nicaila Matthews Okome created her platform the Side Hustle Pro as a blog in 2016. Today, she’s developed it into a successful podcast, highlighting Black women entrepreneurs who’ve turned their side hustles into lucrative empires. Her community boasts nearly 80K followers on Instagram as the only podcast dedicated to Black women on the topic.

“I think it’s important for everyone to have a side hustle and multiple streams of revenue. But for Black women, it’s especially important for many reasons,” says Renae Bluitt, New York City-based creator of the In Her Shoes blog and creator and executive producer of the Netflix documentary, She Did That.

Both Bluitt’s blog and film focus on Black women entrepreneurs, many of whom started their businesses as side hustles. “Instead of just waiting for pay equality to happen, we can take matters into our own hands by creating multiple streams of revenue and hustling harder to secure and protect our financial wellness,” she explains.

Everyone has a different reason for side hustling, of course. It might be to pursue a passion, save for a goal, supplement existing income or eventually transition to running your own business. Read on for advice from women who’ve successfully juggled a full-time job and a part-time side hustle.

1. Tell your boss about your side hustle

“Should I tell my boss about my side hustle?” is perhaps the #1 question that people have, and the inclination of many is to not say anything.

However, Okome encourages you to share your side hustle with your current or potential employer if it makes sense. Your side hustle could actually benefit you in your day job. “My podcast was on my resume, because I felt it showed I was tapping into my strengths and I was proud of it,” she says. But she urges you to look into your company policies to avoid any conflicts of interest before bringing it up.

What’s the best way to talk about your side hustle with your manager? Explain how running your own business actually makes you a better employee, says Baltimore-based Christine Michel Carter, corporate consultant and author of MOM AF. She asserts that as long as you can show you’re bringing your skills from your side hustle to your day job, having a side hustle makes you more valuable.

It’s also important to emphasize that you’ll continue to give your day job your all. As Carter puts it, “Just because I’m running a side business, it doesn’t mean I’m not committed to my full-time job or to my employer.”

2. Ask for help when you need it

If the current pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that life is incredibly unpredictable. Being transparent about your situation and its daily challenges with those around you can help you and your business thrive. Get in the habit of expressing where and how you need support.

That said, there’s a fine line to walk between openness and TMI, especially with your current employer. Exercise your judgement about how much it’s OK to reveal — and what you should keep to yourself.

“I had to be transparent with my manager about my needs, which included the ability to have a flexible schedule,” Carter says, who has spoken candidly about her life as a passionate professional woman and a single mom.

At times, your honesty may extend to your family too. Carter adds, “I also communicated to my kids that mommy is a single mom, and this will unfortunately require them to grow up sooner than other kids. This means grabbing breakfast from the kitchen and problem solving on their own. This keeps me from stretching myself too thin and feeling pulled in different directions.”

3. Get strategic about your time

As a side-hustling entrepreneur, you will need to utilize your time efficiently, perhaps more so if your job is now remote. Rochelle Graham-Campbell started her business Alikay Naturals with just $100 out of her apartment as a college student working a few part-time jobs. Leveraging YouTube, she turned her side hustle into a beauty empire that can be found in CVS, Target and Walmart.

Time management was a major challenge in the beginning, she admits. What made the difference for her was when she started time blocking, or scheduling out a specific time to complete specific tasks on her list. “Finding your rhythm is imperative to making your business successful. You must treat your side hustle as a business even when you’re having to do it outside of your normal hours,” says Graham-Campbell. “Time blocking gave me more control of my schedule and my life.”

Not only is time blocking a useful tool to focus your side hustle, but you use it to prioritize your rest time too. “I have to be as calculated with my rest and recharge time as I am with everything else,” says Shani Syphrett-Hayes, who works full-time at an advertising agency in New York while running her own agency, Jamila Studios, on the side. “I schedule my off time like I schedule my meetings.”

Burnout is real — and it’s a very real problem for people juggling a day job and a side hustle. Proper time management will ensure you can care of yourself and your businesses.“It comes down to pacing yourself and doing the things that bring you joy,” says Sakita Holley, founder and CEO of House of Success PR, a beauty and lifestyle PR firm. “Sometimes, you have to step away from your day to day routine and immerse yourself in other things so that you can come back to your work rejuvenated.”

4. Don’t quit your day job until you have a plan

Not every person with a side hustle dreams of leaving their 9-to-5; you may very well  want to keep your day job. However if you do want to leave it, make sure you have enough money put away. Okome generates income from multiple streams, including sponsorships and digital products, but she spent years saving her side-hustle earnings before she made the leap to full-time entrepreneur. She says you should stockpile at least 6 – 12 months of living and business expenses in savings before leaving your job.

Before quitting your job, Okome suggests asking yourself:

  • “What are my revenue streams going to be?”
  • “Are my revenue streams going to be viable for a long time? Or are they going to be short lived?”
  • “How much do I have in savings? How much do I need to have in savings in order to quit my job?”

For those people with no plans of quitting their day job, just enjoy the freedom of creating and learning how to run a business while you still have a steady paycheck. And if your side hustle takes off, you might reconsider. “When your side hustle starts to make more monthly than your day job, start to think about what the future holds,” says Okome.

Watch Nicaila Matthews Okome’s video on the side hustle revolution now: